Although the ad for the fried chicken wrap has been pulled, there is still much to discuss. An opportunity is present for us to engage in a more meaningful dialogue about health in our communities.Part of the social media and web backlash this commercial generated played on the historical references, of what Patricia Hill Collins calls the “controlling images of Black women,” where you have a happy Black woman, singing and swinging over fried food. Others quickly built the correlation between the increasingly high rates of diet-related disease in the U.S. and the marketing of fast food and soul food to Black communities.
Fried chicken is a staple item in the culture of American food with its roots in southern cooking. A vast majority of Black folks in the U.S. can trace their family lineage to the South. Chicken is not a staple item for marketing because we are Black; it is because we are American. Soul food is an American style of cooking made from a recipe of years in food conservation in the midst of oppression, living in survival mode, turning leftovers into lunch; it also blends African along with Native American/First Nations’ styles and traditions. The soul food menu was born out of a mentality of survival based on economics and environment. For more on the rich history of soul food and culture, check out award-winning documentarian Bryon Hurt ( of “Hip Hop Beyond Beats and Rhymes”) and his new project Soul Food Junkies.
Although the plantation and agricultural conditions for the majority of Black people in this country have changed since the turn of the century, the need to survive environment and economics has not. When friends with dietary restrictions, such as no red meat or pork, ask me how I was raised, I tell them: “I eat all forms of well-cooked dead animal.” That’s just how it was growing up. It is a luxury when a family can forgo cost analysis to be highly selective or picky when it comes to food, especially for those growing up in a working-class family like I did. And I think that is a critical issue when we are talking about food: economics.